Comprehensive and well-coordinated Infrastructure planning is a prerequisite in developing a new town or housing estate and is carried out in tandem with the master town planning and well in advance of any physical developments. It serves to establish the full infrastructure requirements and guide their timely implementation thereby ensuring quality, efficiency and cost-effectiveness in the infrastructure provisions for the proposed development.
Specific functional modes of Infrastructure can be listed as Streets, roads, water supply and water resources, waste water management, sewage treatment plants, solid-waste treatment and disposal, electric power generation and transmission, telecommunications and hazardous waste management etc.
Infrastructure planning can be conceived as a multi-stage process. Each of these stages varies in duration. The greater the time spent on project preparation and structuring, the more likely it is that the project can be implemented smoothly and in a cost-effective manner. Hasty project preparation often leads to rework of documents, leads to false or missing information, and leads to project delays.
The planning process must to take into the local context. More specifically;
• Local needs should be satisfied.
• The project should comply with the existing institutional and legal frameworks
• The project should align with political objectives and ideology
• The project should be technically and economically feasible
Various stages of planning are listed below:
a) Preliminary Feasibility Study
The preliminary feasibility stage of the project establishes the need for the project. Existing information as well as field visits are conducted to substantiate the need for a project. This phase also determines the kinds of detailed studies that need to be undertaken.
b) Detail Study and Project Structuring
This stage is most time consuming. During this stage various technical studies like Geotechnical, land surveys are taken up. Economic market study, Environmental compatibility, Environmental Impact Assessment, Socio-economic Cost Benefit Analysis, Financial Analysis.
c) Detailed Project Report (DPR)
At the conclusion of the above stage, a Detailed Project Report (DPR) is also prepared with detailed technical specifications Financial Engineering and Structuring must also be done during this stage. Lenders, Terms of Loan (Tenors and Rates of Interest), mix of debt and equity, and user charges can all be modelled to determine the financial viability of the project. For Private participation in infrastructure, the private sector may be tasked with many of these studies.
d) Contracting and Procurement
Once the DPR is prepared, the project can be contracted out. Expressions of Interest are sought, Requests for Proposals are sought. Pre-bid conferences are held to clarify terms of the project. Proposals are evaluated and a successful bidder is selected for execution. In the case of Private Provision of Infrastructure, a winning bidder is selected based on their ability both to build and operate the infrastructure.
The successful bidder then proceeds with the construction of the project. Material, manpower and productivity risks must be managed in this phase. Once the project has been built and commissioned, operations can commence and the infrastructure service can be availed by the citizens.
f) Operations and Maintenance
An Operations and Maintenance Contract can be given to a separate party. Maintenance Parameters can be fixed well in advance. Technical Maintenance and quality issues, Revenue generation issues and Administrative risks must be considered in this phase.
The process to entitle lots can take more than five years and is expensive. The cost of parcel maps for five lots or less is $100,000. Tract maps for more than five lots can cost more than $500,000. The number of lots and the potential size are determined by biology, health-department regulations, slope, and the zoning and general plan. Included in the cost are engineering, processing, and regulatory fees and various reports and studies.
Reports and studies include conditions of approval costs, storm-water treatment, anthropology and archeology, soils, biology, noise, and traffic. When a map is approved and recorded, there are additional fees that include, but are not limited to the following:
• Potential greenhouse gas studies
• Retention and drainage basins
• On- and off-site mitigation land
• School fees
• Parks and recreation fees
• Physical secondary access
• Fire fees
• Annual bonding fees.
Politics comes into play when obtaining the required approvals from county boards, city councils, and planning commissions. The level of public opposition or support affects hearings completion. They can be completed in as little as four months, or take years and cost over a million dollars. Property owners have three courses of action to take into consideration.
1. Entitlement and sale of the property ‘as is’ – This option brings the lowest price, but costs the least and requires the shortest time for property disposal. Under rare circumstances, the land is worth more when it is unentitled.
2. Enter into a long-term agreement – The agreement is made with a home builder who incurs the expenses of processing a tract map. This option is the most utilized. The process could take up to five years. The buyer is required to release nonrefundable deposits periodically to the seller after approving their contingencies. Escrow closing typically occurs after tentative or final map approval.
3. The owner incurs the entitlement costs – Much of the process is like option two. The difference is the owner has full control of the mapping process and bears all expenses.
The ramifications of each choice should be weighed carefully before making a decision. Owners, who have chosen not to seek advice, have made the decision to process a map and found out later the number of lots was not financially feasible. A competent engineer can determine the optimal number of lots that can be obtained and approved. Smart growth design principals call for buildings with a variety of materials, texture, and color and individuality; well-defined open space; a building and street relationship; mixed uses; and high-density development. Contractors, who specialize in residential subdivisions, can give realistic cost estimations.
The process of entitling residential property to higher densities is costly, complex, and cumbersome. Many factors must be taken into consideration. The leading concerns that communities have about increased density are the quality of life and increased costs.
There is a need for new affordable housing to reduce recent overpayment and overcrowding. There is also a need for high-density housing that supports economic recovery, accommodates new workers and their loved ones, and economizes the costs of infrastructure. It is quite a balancing act. Open spaces need to be conserved and the distance between new jobs and new homes reduced.